Forgiveness travels back to us on the road of repentance, and even though Isaiah is a prophet who majors on grace, he does not fail to inform his readers about the need for obedience.

Do You Have the Right Facts but a Wrong Heart?

Sunday Scripture

Really? What were they thinking?
The Sunday school lesson for my fours and fives featured the life and ministry of John the Baptist. “Perfect,” I thought. “He’s Jesus’s cousin, and two of my little guys are cousins. They’ll love that. But what about this…?”

“Repent!”

That was John’s message, and an abstract concept, for certain.

So we played a game. The kids could walk anywhere in the classroom, but when I shouted the word, “Repent,” they had to change direction. It was chaos, and they loved it.  Best of all, they got the point that repentance means a change in our direction.

Israel had descended into chaos of a very different sort, and the prophet Isaiah had been tasked with calling them back to obedience and away from the empty worship that characterized their “devotion” to God.

“Stop doing evil! Start doing good!”

Sounds like repentance to me, and, as usual, God promises to meet the least movement in his direction with a running-down-the road welcome.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

(Isaiah 1:18-20)

Right Facts, Wrong Heart

Forgiveness travels back to us on the road of repentance, and even though Isaiah is a prophet who majors on grace, he does not fail to inform his readers about the need for obedience.

Israel had become a nation whose facts were right but whose hearts were wrong.   God had “had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle.”

And when will we hear and heed the same message? Our offerings to God are perhaps more subtle than “the blood of bulls and goats,” but we get it backwards all the time. Like Israel, our facts are right, but our hearts are wrong. God does not need us or our service, and there’s not a thing we can do to make him love us more–or less. We obey, we practice spiritual disciplines, and we serve him from the overflow of a new heart. Repentance and the resulting obedience remind us where our loyalties lie.

Thanks be to God, he never forgets.

Grace and peace to you,

michele signature[1]

Subscribe to Living Our Days to get regular content like these Lenten devotionals delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page. You can also find seasonal reflections on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

46 thoughts on “Do You Have the Right Facts but a Wrong Heart?”

  1. Oh, that activity lesson you did with the four/five year olds is priceless, Michele! I’m sure they remembered that for a long time, and certainly took the first steps toward understanding what it means to repent. We all need to search our heart daily to make sure we are going in the right direction with God.
    Blessings!

    Like

  2. Some excellent lessons for us here. Thank you. We all need to repent and change course as soon as the Holy Spirit calls out to us to “Repent!” just as your kindergarten class did.

    Like

  3. Michele
    So missing not being able to go to church to have that close connection with one another and pass the peace.
    at least in this day and age we can watch it streamed live on our phones or laptops grateful for what we have.
    Our ministers laptop froze during the closing prayer but he was able to return in awhile maybe God was right
    to write those Ten Commandments on tablets of stone for all to share!!!

    Like

  4. Great illustration of repentance, Michele. The only advantage of missing out on physically attending our church is saving the long commute and having the time to comment on so many great blogs today!

    Like

  5. What an apt object lesson! I hope they’ll always remember the concept.

    I was just writing about going through the motions of spiritual disciplines without our hearts and minds engaged, so this reinforces and feeds into my thinking.

    Love this: “God promises to meet the least movement in his direction with a running-down-the road welcome.”

    Like

  6. Michele, you are a natural teacher. I loved your “Repent” game and the message it conveyed to your little Sunday School charges. If only real-life repentance was as easy as changing direction in the game. Obedience is hard, but anything worthwhile is usually not easy.

    Like

  7. Michele, what a GREAT way to teach a sometimes-abstract concept to your 4-and-5-year-olds! And the visual is good for adults too. 🙂 You’re so right, we first need to offer God our hearts and our repentance when He shows us it’s needed. I also loved what you said about how God is the “running down the road” father to our slightest turning. His love is amazing!

    Like

  8. What a great game to teach your students the true meaning of repentance. I’m sure they will remember it for the rest of their lives. Many of the Bible verses I know today and much of my understanding of the faith came through great Sunday School teachers like you. Blessings to you.

    Like

    1. I tell my kids (and grown ups!) all the time that the things we learn when we are young stick with us so much longer than the words we labor to commit to memory as adults. It’s my goal to fill those little heads right up full while I have their ears!

      Like

  9. What a great way to teach the meaning of repent! I love that, Michele. I’m sure your little ones had fun with it too. And learned at the same time. You’re a sneaky one! 🙂

    Like

  10. It comes down to a heart issue, doesn’t it? Not knowledge. This reminds me of Jesus getting on the religious leaders because they know the facts, but their hearts where not right. Our hearts need to be right.

    Like

    1. That’s such a fantastic NT example of the heart issue. By the time Jesus landed here on earth, Israel had pretty well reduced their following life to a series of rules and requirements. It’s so much easier to do that than it is to let God change our hearts.

      Like

  11. “Forgiveness travels back to us on the road of repentance.” How amazing is that? Our rags of repentance for his golden forgiveness–that includes eternal life no less. I’m reminded of an old song we used to sing in Sunday School. The lyrics included: “After all he’s done for me, how can I do less than give him my best and live for him completely?” What I need to do comes easier when I remember all that He’s already done.

    Like

  12. I love that, Michele —> “…there’s not a thing we can do to make him love us more–or less.” 🙂 That is SO TRUE!!! Thank you for this thought-provoking post!

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    Like

  13. Beautiful! Head knowledge does not lead us closer to God, but heart knowledge does. I can get stuck in my head and lose sight of God’s truth too often. I can just imagine the chaotic lesson of changing directions but I bet those kids will remember it always.

    Like

  14. What a fabulous way to teach such an abstract concept! I can just see your class enjoying that fun lesson having been a classroom teacher for many years myself. Thank you so much for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

    Like

  15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Michele and what a brilliant way of teaching the little ones in your class for Sunday school. I always think that the littlest ones pick up ideas more easily when they are actively ‘doing’ rather then just listening. Thank you for joining us for the #DreamTeamLinky

    Like

  16. Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Pleas stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.